Sign Up for a Free Account


Periodic limb movements in sleep

Periodic limb movements in sleep are repetitive movements, most typically in the lower limbs, that occur about every 20 to 40 seconds. If you have periodic limb movements in sleep, or sleep with someone who has periodic limb movements in sleep (also referred to as PLMD, periodic limb movement disorder), you may recognize these movements as brief muscle twitches, jerking movements or an upward flexing of the feet. They cluster into episodes lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

The exact cause of periodic limb movements in sleep is still unknown. Scientists believe that the underlying mechanisms probably involve factors in the nervous system, although studies have not revealed any consistent abnormalities. periodic limb movements in sleep are not considered medically serious. They can, however, be implicated as a contributing factor in chronic insomnia and/or daytime fatigue because they may cause awakenings during the night. Occasionally, periodic limb movements in sleep may be an indicator of a serious medical condition such as kidney disease, diabetes or anemia.

Individuals with periodic limb movements in sleep may also experience restless legs syndrome, an irritation or uncomfortable sensation in the calves or thighs, as they attempt to fall asleep or when they awaken during the night. Walking or stretching may relieve the sensations, at least temporarily. However, research also shows that many individuals have periodic limb movements in sleep without experiencing any symptoms at all. It's not unusual for the bed partner to be the one who's most aware of the movements, since they may disturb his/her sleep.

A number of medications have been shown to be effective in treating periodic limb movements in sleep, but treatment is only necessary when periodic limb movements in sleep are accompanied by restless legs, insomnia, or daytime fatigue.

Seek professional medical advice. You may wish to begin by consulting your family physician or by finding a sleep professional.

The National Sleep Foundation
1522 K St., NW, Suite 510
Washington, DC 20005
Phone (202) 347-3471
Fax (202) 347-3472

This information was developed by The National Sleep Foundation and is herewith used with permission.

The National Sleep Foundation. Facts About PLMS. Available at: Last accessed December 31, 2017.

The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink Corporation, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.

Questions or Comment?

MedLink®, LLC

3525 Del Mar Heights Rd, Ste 304
San Diego, CA 92130-2122

Toll Free (U.S. + Canada): 800-452-2400

US Number: +1-619-640-4660



ISSN: 2831-9125